It took a minute for me to process what I had read on my cell phone; immediately I reread what I saw on my Twitter feed, Dick Gregory transitioned. I began looking at images of him online. Seemingly so, this moment in time is amazing and disheartening… I am getting the opportunity to experience a taste of what he went through and fought for during the Civil Rights Movement in the 21st century and I did not ask for it either. Though, I cannot at all say that I even come close to witnessing what he saw during his lifetime. I was born in 1976, and Mr. Gregory in 1932; our lives are like night and day. This piece about his journey from my brown eyes are thoughts that should inspire African American writers with a voice through the written word to take a stand and be honest and correct about what is taking place in these United States. I think he would have wanted that from you and me. Mr. Gregory’s destiny was fulfilled by doing just this with no filter.
I remember when my mother introduced me to Dick Gregory as a child. She was one of his regional sellers for a wellness health line that he created as an entrepreneur. Later in my life, I saw him on several occasions in different auditoriums around the country. It was a pleasure listening to his realness, and dare I say his need to tell White people about themselves. The last time that I heard Mr. Gregory speak was back in 2015, at a Historically Black College University, Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. That evening, Mr. Gregory’s message simply was entitled, Somewhere – I will never forget how he drilled that in our heads… Somewhere. I get it now. I understand where he was coming from by the things that I have experienced in my life as a temporary resident of Jefferson City, Missouri. I understand the rage, anger, and hurt that he felt for at least 70 years of his life. Our lives are told through stories, words, and images.
The photographs I reviewed showed a man who fiercely fought for the rights of Black people in the United States of America and abroad until his last breath. Dick Gregory was a consummate professional and represented what some would say could not happen in a Black man’s life – he was born in St. Louis, Missouri. I applaud his voice. I often believe that he was the James Baldwin of comedy. He never backed down or was scared to say how he felt about any issue that was on the table. Yes, those that are upfront with you will scare you, but in my humble opinion at least you are receiving the truth and nothing but that. I continue to think about many of our great African American leaders that were born or lived in the state of Missouri and left to pursue their life’s journey including Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Josephine Baker and Chester Himes. Each one of these people represent a movement that made this world a better place during their lifetime with their talents and as international humanitarians.
Richard Claxton (Dick) Gregory, a national hero to many and in my eyes the James Baldwin of my generation. He spoke with such freedom and always made sure to drop health tips when he spoke to an audience. As I sit and think and have thought about for some time : What have I really done for my people? Will my work and point of view as a writer be heralded just as these great people mentioned? Have I made an impact with the talents that God has bestowed upon my life? Who will write my obituary – do I have much time left? Now more than ever is the time to stand up for what you believe and make your voice known. There is no excuse and I have none to give, but to only get better. Racism is alive and brewing in America. Mr. Gregory knew this and spoke out loud every day of his life about this very thing never wavering for the status quo. I want to be like him. He was my James Baldwin of my lifetime. He and Baldwin were two men that gave all of themselves for the sake of humanity and used their talents as creative weapons to brand their messages.
Who do we have now to stand up for us as Black people? Who will keep it real? Who is going to continue to pick up the torch and be the voice for and about us? I dare say you and me! I say let’s get to it. I say – say what is necessary as all of our ancestors did without fault. I challenge you and me to do the work and if that means going back to school, being more vocal on social media, writing commentary, creating workshops and becoming entrepreneurs… We have all that we need right in front of us. It just takes the strength and a legacy of a Dick Gregory to remind us that the work is always there; it is all about if you are going to do it and not back down from what is right. Once you realize that the legacy and acknowledge the history of African American people and that it will forever be embedded in the historical compass of how America was built and financed – you are on your way to greatness. And, this will give you a reason to fight and fight some more!
“I never learned hate at home, or shame. I had to go to school for that.” – Dick Gregory